H.O.R.S.E. Poker: Rules & Strategies

With dozens of poker variations out there, it was only a matter of time before poker players around the world started mixing them into a single game. Horse Poker is one of the most popular mixed games out there, combining several of the most popular variants of poker in a single game.

H.O.R.S.E. Poker game includes Texas Hold'em, Pot Limit Omaha, Razz, Seven Card Stud and Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo. The mix of five games was only the first attempt at mixing games, and variations like 8 Game and 10 Game appeared later on. Today we take a look at Horse Poker in a quick guide that is designed to help you understand how the game works and what you need to know to join the action.

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How to play Horse Poker

If you are looking to play the Horse Poker game, you will need to understand several different formats of poker. The game is usually played with one format played for one full round, before switching to the next game. Depending on whether the game is a cash game or a tournament this may change quite a bit, but let's take a look at some basics that normally never change.

The setup

A Horse Poker game is almost always played relatively short handed and very rarely with 8 or 10 poker plaeyrs at the table. The main reason for this is the fact that there are several games in the mix, some of which are best played with fewer players. Commonly, a Horse game will have between six and eight players seated at the table, with tournaments often going for the latter option of eight players at every table.

How the mix works

The game of Horse Poker is basically a rotation of five different rotation of popular poker games. In order to play Horse, the player must understand at least the basics of Hold'em, Omaha and Stud poker, which means the game is designed for truly complete players to compete in.

If you are playing a Horse Poker tournament, you can expect every game to be played for exactly one full orbit. This means that every player will play every position in every game, before the game changes to the next one. In cash games, this can be different, as the dealer may get to choose which game to play and other versions exist as well.

In a classic Horse Poker game, the games are changed in an exact rotation, with Hold’em and Omaha coming first and the three stud games played afterwards. Hold’em and Omaha are usually played as no limit, while the three stud games are played in a limit poker format.

Horse Poker game betting explained

The betting pattern in a Horse Poker game changes quite a bit from hand to hand, and players need to be aware of which game is being played at all times. First of all, the switch from Hold’em to Omaha is one that takes the game from no limit to pot limit, with the blinds typically remaining the same between the two.

Once the Omaha round is over, the game will switch to Seven Card Stud, which means limit poker is underway. The stakes typically change to adjust for the game being limit and players can now only bet a limited amount on every street. Additionally, it is important to keep track of which of the three stud games is being played, as there are many differences between them, especially with the Razz game.

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Online Horse Poker games

Horse Poker is one of the most popular variants of poker out there, yet it is not too popular among online players. With Hold’em and Omaha by far the most popular versions of poker today, mixed games often get less attention, especially in the online world.

However, the biggest poker sites out there do still offer Horse, especially in tournaments. If you are interested in playing Horse Poker online, check out some of our top rated online poker sites and find some active Horse games at all levels going on around the clock.

Horse Poker rules: Hand rankings explained

Mixed poker games are different to normal poker variants in that one needs to understand the rules of several different games in order to play. When it comes to Horse Poker rules, you will need to know how to play each of the five poker variants in order to play. The hand rankings for the games of Hold’em, Omaha and Seven Card Stud are as follows:

  • Royal flush: The best possible hand with five highest suited cards
  • Straight flush: Any five consecutive suited cards make a straight flush
  • Four of a kind: Four cards with the same face value make quads
  • Full house: Just under quads is a full house, with three of a kind + a pair
  • Flush: Five suited cards on any face value make up a flush
  • Straight: Five consecutive cards which are not suited
  • Three of a kind: Three cards with same face value, along with any two other cards
  • Two pair: Two separate pairs and another card
  • One pair: Two cards with same face value, joined by three other unpaired cards
  • High card: A hand with no pairs, straights or flushes

These are the simple hand rankings for most forms of poker, including the three high poker games played in Horse Poker. However, the game does also contain two other stud games which include low hands as well. In Razz poker, players are looking for a low hand only, while in Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo, the low hand takes half the pot.

In both games, the low hand is considered one with cards that are eight or lower, making a low straight the best possible low hand. When holding a straight like this in Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo, players can often win both parts of the pot. In Razz, the low straight is the absolute and unbeatable nuts and will always take down the pot.

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Horse Poker strategy basics

Horse Poker is a very complicated game, simply because there are so many different forms of poker involved. If you are looking for a good Horse Poker strategy, you will need to be at least reasonably proficient in every game type included.

While the best Horse Poker players are those who play all the games reasonably well, players who are not confident in one of the types of poker in the mix can easily avoid playing too many hands in those particular rounds. If Razz is not your game, make sure you only play when you have an exceptionally strong starting hand, so as not to get into tough spots. The same goes for any other game that’s in the mix.

There are Horse Poker books available out there as well for players looking to learn how to play good, but our suggestion is to learn how to play each individual game first. Once you have mastered all the games, adjusting to playing them in a Horse format should not be too difficult.

Horse Poker FAQs

The abbreviation Horse or H.O.R.S.E. stands for Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, Stud Eight, which are the five poker games included in the mix. Horse poker is one of the most commonly played mixed games, although 8 Game and 10 Game have also increased in popularity.

Horse Poker is a mixed poker game, which means you will be playing one round of every game in the mix before switching to the next game. In order to play the game, you will need to be familiar with all five of the games.

Horse Poker tournaments are held in both live and online poker rooms and they offer the game of Horse in a tournament format. Players will buy in for a preset amount, with the top finishers taking home all the money.

Yes! Horse Poker is offered at online poker sites and players can play for free in practice mode or with real money at actual cash game and tournament tables. You can play Horse Poker at various poker sites, although it is not as commonly offered as some other poker formats.

Horse Poker is not a novice’s game. If you are not yet familiar with all forms of poker included in the mix, you should go ahead and play simpler games such as Texas Hold’em or Pot Limit Omaha and gradually make your way up to the mixed game tables.

Join Horse Poker action online

Horse Poker is certainly one of the most amusing formats of poker, as it combines so many different poker skills into one. If you like the concept of mixed games and are looking to get some action going, you can do so at a live casino in Las Vegas where many tournaments are hosted, especially during the World Series of Poker or at one of the online poker sites. Check out our top-rated online poker rooms and find ones that host Horse Poker to join cash games and tournaments without even leaving your hose and play for real cash today.
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